If you are interested in holding a home funeral for a loved one who has died, you’ll need to be aware of the laws that apply. Here is an overview of the rules that govern home funerals in Nevada.
In all states, it is legal to have your loved one’s body at home after they die. Nevada does not require you to involve a licensed funeral director in making or carrying out final arrangements. (See, for example, Nevada Revised Statutes § 440.450 (2018), which permits “the funeral director or person acting as undertaker” to file the death certificate.)
Nevada law determines who has the right to make final decisions about a person’s body and funeral services.
This right and responsibility goes to the following people, in order:
(Nevada Revised Statutes § 451.024 (2018).)
If a person on the list above is arrested or charged with the murder or voluntary manslaughter of the decease person, their authority is automatically forfeited. (Nevada Revised Statutes § 451.024(3) (2018).)
In addition, if there is more than one authorized person in a class named above, decisions may be made by a majority of the members of that class. (Nevada Revised Statutes § 451.024(4) (2018).)
Making an affidavit. To make a legally valid affidavit appointing someone to carry out your final wishes, you must write down what you want, then date and sign your document in front of a notary public. You can find Nevada’s official affidavit form in Nevada Revised Statutes § 451.024(9) (2018). You can also make up your own form, as long as the language you use is substantially the same as the statutory form.
Note that, if you are in the military, you may name the person who will carry out your final wishes in the Record of Emergency Data provided by the Department of Defense.
Who pays for your funeral arrangements? You can either pay for your plans before you die, or you can set aside money for your survivors to use for this purpose. If you don’t do either of these things, and there’s not enough money in your estate to pay for funeral goods and services, your survivors must cover the costs.
In Nevada, the Board of Health requires a body to be embalmed if:
If the Board of Health does not order embalming, a funeral home may not require a body to be embalmed within the first 72 hours after death, and after that only if there is no known objection by the family or other person authorized to arrange for final disposition of the body. (Nevada Revised Statutes § 451.065 (2018).)
Refrigeration or dry ice can usually preserve a body for a short time. There are resources available to help you learn to prepare a body at home for burial or cremation. The website of the National Home Funeral Alliance is a good place to start.
If you will not be using a funeral director to carry out final arrangements, you must complete and file the death certificate yourself. Nevada law requires you to file the death certificate with the local registrar within 72 hours after the time or discovery of the death and before final disposition. (Nevada Revised Statutes §§ 440.450 and 440.490 (2018).)
You must present the death certificate to the deceased person’s doctor, advanced practice nurse, or another approved medical provider, who will fill in the medical portion of the death certificate. The medical certification contains such information as the date, time, and cause of death. The medical provider will then return it to you for completion and filing. (Nevada Revised Statutes § 440.380 (2018).)
Nevada now uses an electronic death registration system, but you can still use a paper death certificate. Contact the Nevada Office of Vital Statistics to obtain a blank death certificate and guidance.
You will need certified copies of the death certificate to carry out certain tasks after the death, such as arranging for the disposition of the body and transferring the deceased person’s property to inheritors. You may be able to file the death certificate and get certified copies the same day. If not, you will have to make a return trip to pick up the copies. Be prepared to pay a small fee for each copy.
Once the death certificate is complete and filed with the registrar, the local health officer will issue a removal permit that allows you to move the body from the place of death. (Nevada Revised Statutes § 440.500 (2018).) For example, if someone dies outside the home, this authorization would be necessary to bring the body home for care. Or, if someone dies at home, permission is necessary to move the body to a location away from home for burial or cremation.
The person in charge of the cemetery or burial ground must file the permit with the local health officer after burial. (Nevada Revised Statutes § 440.580 (2018).)
Nevada law states that the board of commissioners of counties with populations of fewer than 55,000 people may permit the establishment of family cemeteries. Check your local ordinances to see if your county allows family cemeteries. If it does, you must notify the Division of Public and Behavioral Health of the Department of Health and Human Services of the location of the family cemetery before conducting the first burial on the land. (Nevada Revised Statutes § 451.067 (2018).)
Some crematories require that you use a funeral director to arrange cremation. If you don’t want to use a funeral director, make sure the crematory is willing to accept the body directly from the family. In Nevada, a completed and filed death certificate authorizes cremation -- no additional permit is necessary. (Nevada Revised Statutes § 451.660 (2018).)
For more information about cremation, including information on scattering ashes, see Burial and Cremation Laws in Nevada.
Even the most staunch home funeral advocates know that learning to care for one’s own dead can be difficult, especially during a time of grief. If you need help, there are people available to coach you through the process. You can find local guides, consultants, and other resources by visiting the National Home Funeral Alliance website. The book Final Rights, by Joshua Slocum and Lisa Carlson, also offers extensive information on the subject.
For more information about final arrangements and documenting your final wishes in advance, see Nolo’s section on Getting Your Affairs in Order.